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One mystery to begin
on 13 July 2013
I have only read the introduction on the 'look inside' feature on Amazon.
An interest in existential counselling is just beginning for me. I felt drawn to the promise of humility and an unfixed, non-dogmatic view in the counsellor. In seeking a comprehensive introduction, this book seemed a good bet. The author seems well thought of and has written widely on the subject.
Having read the introduction, however, I've been put off the book by the way in which it appears to make nonsense of its own ideas, nonsense on its own terms. Of course my first reaction to this frustration was to think that it must be me who is misunderstanding the author's intention. Having reviewed it and thought about it, however, I'm not convinced of this explanation. I would be grateful if anyone reads this and could point out if, and where, I've gone wrong.
Before coming across the frustrating contradictions, the mood of frustration was set up by 'The more alienated people become from life, the more they...' What can it mean to become 'alienated from life?' It's not explained. What is this 'life' which we can become alienated from? It can only be a version or aspect or part of life if you can become 'alienated' from it, social life maybe, or work life, or even just a feeling that 'life' is an integrated whole, a feeling which we might lose at some point. That's not 'life'. This is all just too clumsy and unexplained.
Mainly, however (I must try to keep this short or I'll be here all night), the frustration came from the apparent contradictions. The largest seemed to be the protestation of humility and non-dogma, whilst at the same time sounding, at least, arrogant, judgemental and dogmatically dismissive of ideas which don't accord with the dogma of 'existentialism'. For instance: 'Many theories of psychotherapy are just such attempts at describing human experience within a self-sufficient framework, isolating people within an anthropocentric universe of their own making'. These are 'complex' theories which 'purport to know what is supposed to go on for infants and young children in secret places referred to as the 'unconscious''. There seems to be judgement and even scorn in this language, which can only be based on a conviction of superior knowledge. Where's the humility in this? The 'unconscious' is often spoken of by those of an psychoanalytic persuasion as a 'construct' or a 'way of speaking' or a facilitative idea rather than a real thing, or 'place'. This is disingenuous simplifying in order to knock down. Setting up an a target yourself, which is then easy for you to knock down. The unconscious is an idea with huge explanatory powers, rich and endlessly useful.
We are told of the 'mistakes' which other theories make, again based, presumably, on superior knowledge, not an allowance of diversity and difference of opinion, different constructions which may well be the results of wisdom, long observation, experience of life.
The 'well', the 'narrow shaft' of each theory is dismissed, yet surely 'existentialism' is itself a theory, an 'ism', a group of ideas which is being presented here in contradistinction to these other 'isms'.
Where's the professed humility in the author listing your achievements in a social hierarchy (albeit, of course, under the mask of professing your involvement in the therapy world and thus validating your expertise and qualifications to speak on these matters). (Plus putting them in brackets in an attempt to connote 'oh this is just by the way').
It doesn't inspire much confidence in the author. But, as I have said, it could be me getting in all wrong.